Twisted Metal: Black was easily the best Twisted Metal game in the series and perhaps the greatest car combat game ever made. Twisted Metal: Black Online doesn't include any of the storyline or single-player progression from the original game, but it does include the same terrific gameplay and a few new game modes built for online multiplayer action.
The first thing you should know about Twisted Metal: Black Online is that the game is free with the purchase of a PlayStation 2 network adapter. The network adapter comes packed in with a coupon that you can send off for a free copy of the game. The second is that the game is built entirely for online play, and it won't do you a whole lot of good if you don't have the network adapter. If you happen to be totally unfamiliar with Twisted Metal: Black, the basic idea is that you are in control of a vehicle that's armed to the teeth with missiles and machine guns. You're dropped into a large area with other, similarly armed vehicles, and you fight your opponents to see who comes out on top. Within those arenas there are tons of different types of power-ups to collect, which give you more ammunition and weapons to use against your opponents. Each vehicle has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own special weapon. For instance, Sweet Tooth the killer clown drives an ice cream truck with a special move that transforms his vehicle into a rolling robot that fires extremely powerful rockets. In all, the game includes 15 vehicles from Twisted Metal: Black--such as favorites like Sweet Tooth, Axel, Shadow, and Mr. Grimm--and 20 different environments from that game as well.
Twisted Metal: Black Online features four different modes of online play: deathmatch, last man standing, collector, and manhunt. Deathmatch lets you battle it out to see who's the best in a free-for-all match, which goes on until the designated time limit, damage, or kill quota is reached. Last man standing is similar to deathmatch except that players who are destroyed cannot rejoin the match right away. Instead, play continues until there is only one player left, at which time another match is started. In the collector game mode you have to gather as many objects, called artifacts, as possible. Hosts can set this mode up so that the player who holds on to the most artifacts for the longest time is declared the winner or so that the first player to collect them all wins. The last game mode, manhunt, configures all of the players, except for one, as hunters, and they have to hunt down the remaining player, who is considered the prey. The only other component that's new in Twisted Metal: Black Online is the power relic modifiers that you can now use to augment your vehicle's abilities. Game hosts have the ability to start a game with relic modifiers turned on, which adds 12 new item pickups that allow your vehicle to do a wide variety of new things. For instance, if you have the defiance relic, your vehicle cannot be set on fire or frozen, and you'll take less damage. You can hold only one relic at a time, so it's important to pick one that best suits your style of play, whether offensive or defensive.
The controls in TMBO are set up extremely well. You have several control configurations to choose from, and the default is well thought out. The left analog stick steers your vehicle, while the right controls its speed. The shoulder buttons on top of the controller handle firing and cycling through your weapons. This setup lets you control every aspect of the game without ever lifting a finger to press another button, which is helpful since the game moves at an incredibly fast pace. The controls are incredibly responsive and take a bit of time to get used to, but once you get used to them, they control just as well as, if not better than, those in the previous Twisted Metal games.
Visually, Twisted Metal: Black Online looks nearly identical to Twisted Metal: Black, and the game still looks really good by today's standards. The vehicle models themselves are nicely detailed and have all kinds of attached little extras that give each one a unique look. Activating different weapons actually triggers vehicle-specific animations that show the weapons physically popping out of a little compartment on the vehicle. The environments are large and have a good amount of detail to them, including buildings, billboards, and trees. The weapons, explosions, and machine gun fire look terrific, thanks mostly to good lighting and particle effects.
In the audio department, the game has some good eerie theatrical beats from Twisted Metal: Black. The music ranges from ambient beats to action-packed crescendos that fit the game's action well. The game's sound effects are easily recognizable, because they sound similar to previous Twisted Metal sound effects, but through the use of a surround sound system they come alive and actually add a great deal to the experience.
In the end, Twisted Metal: Black Online is a terrific game, and you can't really go wrong with it since it's free with the purchase of a network adapter. The game works well online whether you're connecting with a broadband or narrowband connection, especially when you take the time to find a server with a low ping, which isn't hard to do. Players with broadband-enabled setups will get more enjoyment out of the product than narrowband users will, since broadband users can connect to matches with up to eight players, while narrowband only supports up to two The four different modes of play offer enough variety to make the game interesting, although finding a server with a good ping that offers something other than deathmatch is sometimes tricky, but then again you can always create your own game. In any event, if you buy a network adapter, take the time to send the card in for a fun and free copy of Twisted Metal: Black Online.